A potato in winter: can I eat it?
February 1, 2021 5:08 AM   Subscribe

Winter around here means put on a sweater. I steamed a potato (big baker) 12 hours ago, and forgot it overnight in the machine. After it turned itself off, it cooled down to room temp and stayed there 10 hours. Room temp in this case never got higher than 73 degrees.
posted by tilde to Food & Drink (8 answers total)
Best answer: Reheat it and eat it. Yes, it was outside the "safe" ranges for food for a number of hours. But it just sat inside a sterile steamer and had no chance to get contaminated by anything bad. Basically, this is similar to: bake a loaf of bread, let it cool off, put it in a bag or box, or just leave it out, then slice it the next day and eat. You would not worry about that. Don't worry about the potato. Enjoy. (Mash some avocado into it!)
posted by beagle at 5:23 AM on February 1, 2021 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I would slice it up and fry it in butter with onions, peppers, and creole seasoning.
posted by saladin at 5:50 AM on February 1, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: You have independently discovered the reason restaurants invented “home fries” as a breakfast accompaniment. You’re fine.
posted by spitbull at 8:28 AM on February 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm not an expert and would be happy to be informed otherwise about this, but aren't potatoes quite different than bread when it comes to food safety and storage?

My understanding is that potatoes that were left sealed at room temperature are a documented source of botulism poisoning. The US CDC warns against leaving potatoes wrapped in foil at room temperature. Here is a report of a botulism outbreak from potatoes that were home-canned in boiling water, which sounds analogous to your steamer situation.

Even if botulism poisoning is very rare, personally, I would just make another potato....
posted by esker at 10:03 AM on February 1, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: it just sat inside a sterile steamer and had no chance to get contaminated by anything bad.

This is a common and sometimes deadly fallacy.
Cooking at ordinary pressure, such as by steaming, boiling, or baking, does not kill any spores that are present. Killing spores requires pressure cooking. Spores are ubiquitous and will readily grow into active bacteria after temperatures in the "danger zone" (40° to 140°F) have been reached for a long enough time.
posted by chromium at 10:55 AM on February 1, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: A one-pound potato costs 78 cents. Make a new potato. It is not at all similar to a loaf of bread, and restaurants do not reuse potatoes that have not been properly stored for home fries. If they do, it's a health code violation. As noted above, baked potatoes can be a source of botulism. We are in the middle of a pandemic and you don't want to have to be hospitalized and put on a ventilator right now, which can happen if you get botulism.
posted by k8lin at 11:04 AM on February 1, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Unfortunately, potatoes are one of those foods that can grow bacteria super easily, because they have a really low PH--no acid to keep baddies at bay. I am a pretty devil-may-care eater and would chuck this potato. Here's more info on potato food safety.
posted by assenav at 11:43 AM on February 1, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Well, I further steamed it and ate it with cheese (guess I should have put lime too .. vegetarian ceviche lol).

Not dead yet.

I’ll be more careful in the future. I wish it was as easy as “buy another potato” but even without a pandemic it’s not necessarily a doable solution.
posted by tilde at 7:44 PM on February 1, 2021

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